When you’re a team like the Mets — a group that so often these days has been defined by ailing backs and impotent bats — all you’re looking for is someone to shoulder the load for a day.
On Wednesday, after a double dose of bad news, Terry Collins’ beleaguered squad got a few shoulders to do the job, but the mightiest was by far Noah Syndergaard’s.
Hours after learning that Neil Walker’s back pain was lingering longer than expected, and shortly after scratching Juan Lagares from the lineup because of his partially torn thumb ligament, the Mets were able to rest their weight on Syndergaard’s hulking frame, to the tune of an 11-2 shellacking of the Pirates at Citi Field.
Syndergaard (7-2, 1.91) pitched 8 1⁄3 innings, allowing five hits and striking out 11 while throwing 115 pitches. Two of the hits came in the ninth inning, when Syndergaard was vying for his first career complete game. He also lost the shutout in the ninth, on David Freese’s double. Jeurys Familia allowed an unearned run in relief.
“I think I wanted it more than he did,” catcher Rene Rivera said of the complete-game bid. “He did a great job mixing it up. Every time he throws 100-plus and he’s got a good breaking ball — a good slider, changeup, all of them were good — you keep the hitters off balance, and you can see today, they were off balance.”
The Mets snapped a three-game losing streak in which the Mets totaled seven runs. It also was only the Mets’ second win over the Pirates in 12 games. Finally, it proved to be a respite from a battering ram of bad medical reports, from Lagares and Walker, to the possibility of season-ending surgery for David Wright. And don’t forget the stress fracture in Lucas Duda’s back.
But enough with the litany of the injured, because for a few hours on Wednesday night, it didn’t matter.
The Mets notched a season-high 19 hits with the traditionally gentle bats of Wilmer Flores, Kelly Johnson and Matt Reynolds hitting cleanup, fifth and sixth. Johnson (3-for-5, two RBIs) and Flores (2-for-5, four RBIs) homered. Reynolds was 3-for-4 with two doubles and two RBIs.
“I was very pleased,” said Collins, who added that players met with hitting coach Kevin Long before the game. “We had some guys that got a chance to play today and came through. You need those guys that when they get a chance to play, they do something to help you.’’
It was more than enough for Syndergaard, who took the mound to the music of “Carmina Burana,” a Latin cantata best suited to cinematic interpretations of Vikings going into battle, and only got more intimidating from there.
He allowed a leadoff single to John Jaso and nothing else for five innings, before giving up back-to-back singles to Jaso and Gregory Polanco in the sixth. No matter, though, since he was able to strike out Andrew McCutchen on three straight pitches — the final one a 100-mph fastball — to end the inning.
And while their starting pitching did what it does, the Mets were able to capitalize on one of their biggest weaknesses. Coming into the game having scored a league-low 135 runs with runners in scoring position, they managed to score three in the first, on Flores’ bases-loaded squibber and Reynolds’ two-out double. The Mets scored one more run in the third and three each in the fifth and sixth innings.
With all that run support, Syndergaard said he wanted the complete game “pretty badly.”
“I was kind of not really satisfied with myself after not being able to complete that game,” he said.
In that, and in many other things, he stands alone.
The Mets’ starting lineup that produced 11 runs and a season-high 19 hits bore little resemblance to the one they opened with in Kansas City on April 3. Because of injuries, there were only three holdovers from Opening Day:
Last Night April 3
Granderson RF Granderson RF
Cabrera SS Wright 3B
Cespedes CF Cespedes LF
Flores 3B Duda 1B
Johnson LF Walker 2B
Reynolds LF Conforto DH
Loney 1B Cabrera SS
Rivera C d’Arnaud C
Syndergaard P Lagares CF